Dave Hill: Big in Edinburgh
By Brendon Burns | Published on Tuesday 31 August 2010
Brendon Burns chats to Dave Hill because he thinks he’s great, and he sort of likes him. Could this be the start of a beautiful bromance? Combrom? Comrance? Of course not, it’s just two comedians having a gas. Jeez!
I want Dave Hill to like me. Not because, as his show states, his band is really big in Japan, nor because his other show is a hit underground chat show in New York – the market I most covet. Not even because he has that warm American accent which enables him to say ‘groovy’ without getting glassed. It’s because, if Dave likes you, he mocks you, yet it’s done with such an immediate empathy, that you actually walk away feeling a little bit better about yourself.
BB: So, two shows in your first year at the Festival. What’s wrong with you?
DH: Yeah, I know right? (Hill is wide eyed).
BB: Are you really big in Japan?
DH: Yeah. I started a band and nobody in the US knew us but we ended up getting signed to a big Japanese label. When we went there the crowds were huge and we were doing great. We were like sooo overwhelmed, then returned to the US, and we were like… (He pulls a face that says in one eyebrow raise and a grimace: ‘What the fuck? Oh man, this sucks, we thought people would get it now, but it’s like, exactly the same.’ It’s a fantastic skill – a little hard to describe…. go see him).
BB: So you were a musician first?
DH: Yeah. I played in a bunch of bands, then decided to sing. I would talk between songs. After a while the band would be going, “C’mon let’s play”, and I’d be like, “No. No! I’ve really got something going”, and it grew from there.
BB: Here at Edinburgh they view comedy as a bloodsport. It’s quite a change of pace from the US where audiences don’t expect to be engaged as much. Are you comfortable being heckled by professionals every night?
DH: I’ve had a few of those already. I did a gig in London that billed itself: ‘The Worst Comedy Show In London.’ When heckled I said to the crowd, “At least once a week I think to myself, ‘I can’t believe I make my living through comedy’. It’s nice to know tonight I’m not alone”.
BB: I always think the difference between a comic and a funny person is if a funny person gets booed off they usually think, “I don’t know if I can go through this” and bail, whereas a comic will try to get back on stage that night, wearing a different hat.
DH: Definitely. That reminds me of this gig I did over the summer. I kept thinking, ‘what’s the worst possible audience I can play to?’ So I booked myself a gig in a maximum security prison called Tsing Tsing.
DH: At first I thought ‘this is hilarious’. I even sent them the gayest press shot I could find. Then it was the week before and I was like, ‘that’s not funny. That’s like a mean prank I’m playing on myself’.
BB: Did you bail?
DH: I thought about it. When I asked them what kind of audience it was they said, ‘well, so far 250 of the most violent inmates have signed up and they really like jokes about being in jail.’ Normally I don’t change my set to suit the audience but this time I made an exception. I did fifteen minutes of jokes about prison life. I knew all the different cell blocks. They loved it until this one joke.
BB: Go on..?
DH: So I say, “who’s come the furthest to be here?” and they take it seriously. This guy pipes up, “I’m from Kansas”. So I said, “So did you always want to live on the East Coast, or did things just work out that way?” That wasn’t so good, but we got past it. The rest was great.
BB: How do you handle a difficult room?
DH: I like being in tough situations. I know there are some people in the UK who know who I am, but it’s not a lot, I’ve got no delusions about that – most people will be like ‘who the fuck is this guy on the flyer?’
BB: So what do you want to get out of your first Edinburgh?
DH: I just want to survive… I want to come back alive.
Dave Hill’s shows ‘Big In Japan’ and ‘The Dave Hill Explosion’ were performed at the Pleasance Courtyard during Fringe 2010.